Friday, February 10, 2012

Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to understand what makes some teams that I've worked with successful. The amount of resources available to a team don't correlate to its success. Hard work, pure motivation or ambition certainly color the output but are not a guarantee. Talent and domain expertise are helpful, but I've worked with world-class talent that struggles, and average talent that thrives. Size doesn't matter. Success is unevenly distributed, but it isn't random.

Focused action seems to me to be the critical common element of successful teams. At Xerox Norm Rickard changed the company, teaching it how to focus its actions using a common process language of quality, but today, I think we need something that is more responsive.

The key ingredients are flexibility to respond to changes in the environment, clear, short-term goals, the commitment of the team to deliver a defined set of outputs, and the capacity (mostly self-contained) within the team to execute. In the software development world, agile methodologies help small teams achieve productivity and velocity far greater than in traditional organizations. Agile methods scale fractally from a single team to entire development organizations.

So I'm wondering, what would happen if companies could move agile techniques out of development and across the enterprise? They could think and act iteratively in marketing, finance, sales, and across the executive suite. Across-the-board agility would dramatically enable organizations of all sizes to have a structure and process that would allow them to rapidly test new ideas and markets, expand offerings that resonate with markets, and ultimately adapt and grow.